Why we need more Latinx journalists

Story and photos by BRITT BROOKS

When America sits down for breakfast what’s in front of them? The entire internet is literally at our fingertips, so reading the news is less impacted by time and place and more a matter of preference. Especially now when anyone can share their voice, journalists have the unique and exigent responsibility to create reliable, accurate and interesting publications.

Journalism is necessary to keep our communities connected, as well as educate readers with current perspectives. New voices are becoming increasingly popular in publications across the country as various marginalized groups gain platforms.

Utah’s Latinx population is at nearly half a million people, and in a perfect world that large community would be covered and represented accurately in the media. However, as reported by ReMezcla, white male voices tell the vast majority of stories in American media. In fact, throughout all the top newsrooms in the country, only 25 percent had at least one non-white editor. And minorities made up less than 17 percent of all newsroom employees combined.

Rebecca Chavez-Houck is a woman who understands why minority representation is important in all fields. Her experience as a Latina woman, and her career endeavors in journalism, public relations and politics, have given her insight as to what can be better in the world of media creators.

Starting her professional journey at the University of Utah, Chavez-Houck earned a B.A. in journalism and mass communication as well as a Master of Public Administration. After working in public relations, she said she realized she had a knack for “sleuthing” and wanted to try her hand at researching potential bills. Her career totally changed when running for public office morphed from an idea to a reality in 2008.

Chavez-Houck said she used her communication skills to ensure all possible effects of a bill were thoroughly considered and weighed, not glossed over during a long session on Capitol Hill. “You don’t say ‘no comment,’ you find a way to answer the question,” she said during a press pool interview.

Chavez-Houck explained that she decided to run for public office because she didn’t see anyone representing her community who actually reflected it.

The work Chavez-Houck accomplished during her time in the Utah State House of Representatives includes successfully passing a bill ensuring permanent Election Day voter registration as well as medical interpreter amendments that help non-English speakers of all dialects get the care they need in American medical offices.

As a Latina woman in a predominantly white, male career she’s had to navigate different ways to get her voice heard not only by constituents but her colleagues as well. Something she wants to improve is the Latinx image in the media, and that their stories are heard and respected. She’s frustrated with journalists who don’t search for new perspectives and said, “Find us, find us, find us. We’re there!”

Chavez-Houck wants more coverage that actually reflects the various personalities and ways of being for Latinx people. “We are as diverse as the greater community,” she said.

One way to ensure different demographics are covered well in a publication is to hire writers who accurately represent the community. Kiana Opre, 22, is a senior at the University of Utah studying gender studies and English. She’s also the editor-in-chief of Her Campus Utah, a branch of the international online magazine Her Campus written primarily for and by collegiate women.

Opre has worked to expand the topics covered by HCU, like trans rights and gender equality. She’s constantly reminding writers to use photos in their articles that have racial, cultural and gender variation so that the literal image of the magazine shows inclusivity. And she’s proud to say Her Campus at the U is ranked No. 1 out of more than 300 branches due to variables like the number of articles published, social media posts and chapter events.

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Kiana Opre

Opre and her fellow HCU council members try to recruit writers from all different majors, backgrounds, races, and genders. According to information published by College Factual, the U has fairly average numbers for diversity regarding race, gender, and age. But the U is more mixed than the national average, and ranks 314 for “Overall Diversity” when compared to nearly 2,500 other colleges nationwide.  

Opre said she advocates for a wide range of writers in all published content and aims to have all types of voices represented. However, she wants to be clear that HCU isn’t seeking out minority writers for no reason. Their voices actually need to be recognized and validated, not tokenized.

In an email interview Opre said, “Businesses, clubs and corporations are constantly seeking out ‘diversity’ but it never seems to be for the benefit for real lives or real people of color, but to fulfill a quota, to keep up with an image of what’s ideologically popular.”

But similar to other Utah-based publications, HCU was having a major gap between the representation the council wanted and the writers the branch actually had.

Stephany Cortez happened to be the first Latina member of HCU, but she said the decision to join was daunting, as going into a group of about 20 white women isn’t the easiest thing to do as a minority.

Cortez is a 23-year-old political science and criminology major at the U. Her roots are Mexican and though she said she loves the culture, community, and family that surround her, she doesn’t want to be defined by any one thing. She’s been part of the U’s Student Government (ASUU) and the Beacon Scholars program for first-generation students.

When Cortez joined the magazine, HCU’s editorial team was totally female, and totally white. On its surface the chapter reflected the stereotype of a sorority, and at one point Cortez said she didn’t know if she was at the right meeting. At the open house for the chapter, Cortez remembered seeing different genders and ethnicities, but soon found out she was the first Latina to join the magazine’s staff. “A lot of people of color don’t know about Her Campus, that it’s a community you can participate in,” she said.

While Cortez said she first felt a bit like “a fish out of water,” she also knew that sticking with Her Campus would improve her writing and possibly open the doors for more Latinx students to join. The people we see in certain positions plant the idea of what’s attainable and what isn’t depending on what you look or sound like. In other words, who we see in different industries and careers is who we believe belong there.

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Stephany Cortez

Cortez mentioned that Latinx families tend to stay within their smaller communities for various reasons, the most notable being fear. In a time where ICE is detaining and deporting Hispanic people every day and America’s president actively speaks against Latinxs it isn’t surprising that parents are concerned for their children on a daily basis.

Being repressed is one of the most frustrating feelings one can experience. But if something as common as getting a speeding ticket can end in deportation, fighting and speaking up can seem impossible or at the very least unsafe.

However, new territory is on the horizon for Cortez and other Latinx young adults. They find inspiration in the sacrifices that previous generations made, and use that to add to the culture and future of Latinx people in America.

Cortez is proud of her roots, but she’s also proud of herself for working hard and joining different communities and clubs no matter the preconceived notions. She said, “We need to break that mold.”

The Women’s Business Center: A support in the entrepreneurial journey

Story and photos by LIZ G. ROJAS

One of Utah’s best-kept secrets for aspiring entrepreneurs is the Women’s Business Center, located in downtown Salt Lake City within the Chamber offices.

The WBC is a nonprofit organization that is partially funded by the federal government through the Salt Lake City Chamber. Because the center is a 501(c)(3), it is expected to match the funding it receives through fundraising or sponsors.

The Women’s Business Center’s goal and purpose is to help increase the number of women-owned businesses in the state of Utah through consulting, training and networking opportunities.

The center has been operational for 17 years and has a consultant who provides a variety of different services. Services are free to the public and range from helping with business plans and cash flow projections to government consulting.

Former day-care owner Lorena Sierra missed the opportunity to work with the Women’s Business Center.

Lorena Sierra

Lorena Sierra

“I know a lot of times I needed help with grants and I wasn’t able to apply because I had no idea how,” Sierra said. “I wish I would have known of an organization like that [WBC].”

Sierra owned a day-care center in Utah County alongside her business partner for 17 years. In 2012, after her partner sold her half, Sierra ran out of funding options and chose to sell her business.

According to American Express, her center was 1 of 73,000 businesses in Utah that are women-owned, compared to the 9.1 million nationally that are owned by women.

The Small Business Administration defines a woman-owned business as one that is owned at least 51 percent by a woman. In addition, the woman can make independent decisions regarding the business without being undermined by anyone and is responsible for planning the short- and long-term activities.

Ann Marie Thompson- Program Director for the Women's Business Center

Ann Marie Thompson

Ann Marie Thompson, program director for the Women’s Business Center, says there is demand for a woman-oriented organization because there are different stresses for women than there are for men.

Most women are trying to start a business from home or as an addition to full-time responsibilities. They’re driven by flexibility because their first obligation is to their family. The majority of clients who meet with the WBC have these similar backgrounds and priorities.

Evette Alldredge, a local business owner, was guided by the Women’s Business Center and benefited from its services.

In a phone interview, Alldredge said that she arrived at the center with a partial business plan and high hopes. She met once a week for approximately five months with the center to create a business plan and explore all aspects of the planning.

Alldredge was able to present in front of Utah’s Microenterprise Loan Fund and received funding from the nonprofit for her business.

In April 2014, Evette Alldredge’s business, Super Gym Gymnastics, opened its doors.

However, even though the business center does direct its organization toward women, its services are for everyone. Thompson said that 20 percent of the WBC’s clientele are, in fact, men. She said, “We consult with anyone who wants to come.”

The Women’s Business Center has a broad range of connections and partnerships. Some of the partners are the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The center also works with the Salt Lake City World Trade Center and Salt Lake Magazine. The WBC refers clients to the World Trade Center if they need help learning how to import and export.

Salt Lake Magazine features the Women in Business section in the September/October issue. The WBC is highlighted in that issue.

Although the center is associated with the Salt Lake City Chamber it is not confined to the Wasatch Front. Thompson said Google Hangout and Skype are frequently used to communicate with clients throughout the state.

According to the Small Business Administration, twice as many women-owned businesses are opened every day, compared to three years ago. However, there are still barriers that haven’t been overcome by women business owners.

One of the barriers is the compensation gap. Even if a woman is the owner of a business, her salary is lower compared to others in her same position.

“Women choose to pay themselves less, not knowing what others are paying themselves,” Thompson said. “Women are also choosing jobs that pay less. ”

American Express reported in 2014 that the goal shouldn’t be to motivate more women to open businesses, but instead to financially support those who are already established and help them expand.

Regardless, the need for the Women’s Business Center in Utah is crucial. As Lorena Sierra said, “We do need a lot of support. We have the desire to have our own businesses but we don’t have a guide.”

The WBC is one of Utah’s best-kept secret support systems for aspiring business owners.

“If it weren’t for the Women’s Business Center I would not be where I am today,” said Evette Alldredge, owner of Super Gym Gymnastics, who continues to work with the center for a business expansion loan. “I am the most happy, successful entrepreneur.”

Salt Lake residents share perspectives on President Obama’s terms

Story and photo by RENEE ESTRADA

Could you imagine millions of people criticizing the decisions you make? Imagine millions of people weighing in on what you ate for breakfast, the clothes you chose to wear, and the car you drive.

In some respects this is what happens to the president, every day. Millions of people critique his decisions, speeches and beliefs. It is safe to say it is an exhausting position.

As if being judged by millions of Americans wasn’t difficult enough, he has the added pressure of representing a large minority group. According to the 2010 Census, African Americans make up 13.2 percent of the US population.

On Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, President Barack Obama was inaugurated into his second presidential term. There he promised to continue to lead the US, despite the exhausting nature of being the president. While the second term is often referred to as the “legacy term,” Obama’s second inauguration makes Americans reflect on the past four years and consider what may happen in the next four years to come.

In Utah, which is an overwhelmingly red state, African Americans make up a mere 1.3 percent of the total population. So would African Americans and other Salt Lake City residents here be proud, disappointed, or indifferent about Obama’s first term and the years to come?

Kendra Arado, who is African American, is a junior studying stage management at the University of Utah. She volunteered on the 2008 Obama campaign before she was even eligible to vote.

“Of all of his accomplishments, I am most proud of his work on health care. The Affordable Care Act will benefit the lives of millions of Americans. I think that will truly be his legacy,” Arado said.

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Bridges, an Obama supporter, studying at her home.

Zoey Bridges, also African American, is a junior studying biology at the U. Bridges also volunteered on the Obama campaign this year. She felt this election was going to be much closer than the 2008 election and decided to help out. She too is most proud of Obama’s work on health care.

“His work on health care is incredible,” Bridges said. “I am so proud of that achievement because it directly affects me. My sister, who is a diabetic, will be able to get the coverage and care she needs … and that’s just amazing.”

Kurt Bagley, a U alumnus who is white, was a field director on the Obama 2012 campaign. He echoed Bridges’ sentiments.

“Obama’s biggest accomplishment during his first term was passing comprehensive health reform,”  Bagley said. “Had President Obama not been able to pass this bill, it could have been a decade or longer for any other legislation to come about and the country would have missed the opportunity to address health care.”

Americans, regardless of political affiliation, have worries and concerns about the president. Everyone hopes that he will steadfastly guide the nation through difficult times and be able to make calculated decisions in distressing circumstances. Some Americans may hope he accomplishes his goals or hope that he will reach across the aisle when making policy decisions.

Both Bridges and Arado shared the same concern for Obama.

“Honestly, I hate to say it, but I thought it was entirely possible he could have been assassinated during his first term,” Arado said. “That would have been devastating.”

Bagley had a different concern.

“My biggest concern of his first term was that his opposition in the House of Representatives would ruin the economic progress he had already made,” Bagley said.

Obama has another four years in office, so looking forward to the next term Bridges and Arado share some similarities in what they hope Obama will accomplish.

Arado hopes to see more job creation and Bridges said, “I hope to see the unemployment rate come down. I’m concerned that I may not be able to find a job after college.”

Meanwhile, Bagley, who is currently a legislative intern for Planned Parenthood, had concerns about global warming.

“I’m hoping that he will find ways to continue to reduce carbon emissions, and take measures to help reverse the effects of global warming,” Bagley said.

Making progress in Washington is no easy task. It takes an incredible amount of energy and persuasion to get people to agree.

Stanley Ellington, president of the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce, believes that some progress has been stifled because Obama is African American, and furthermore believes a lot of the negativity about Obama is racially motivated.

Bridges suggested that political stagnation is just typical of Washington politics.

Arado said, “There is too much partisanship getting in the way. Democrats and Republicans need to find common ground.”

While this is a small sampling of Utahns, it is interesting to see that these individuals can have such different perspectives about the president. What he may symbolize to someone may be entirely different than to another person who also supports him. It seems that no matter what he symbolizes to someone, every American has hope for not only his future, but also America’s future.

Jason Nowa

Ute Basketball a Story of Struggle

By Jason Nowa

The University of Utah Utes’ 2011-2012 men’s basketball (Voices of Utah) team has completed the most atrocious season in their history. This season marked the Utes first 20-loss season as they tumbled to an uninspiring record of 6-25. They finished 11th overall in their first season as a member of the Pac-12 Conference.

“This season was rough, no way around it, but from where we started we saw improvement throughout the rest of the season.” said junior forward Dijon Farr.

The Utes packaged numerous transfers together to make a team, as eight players left the team last year following Coach Jim Boylen’s exit.

Coach Larry Krystkowiak (Voices of Utah) spun the best team available to him, and though it was a struggle from the start, many team members felt they competed hard in the second half of the season after a distraction in the locker room was resolved.

The team’s best player, senior Josh “Jiggy” Watkins was dismissed from the team January18, due to violation of team rules and constant struggles in the classroom. Watkins was the team’s leading scorer and with assists, with 15.6 points per game and 4.8 assists in only 16 games. The loss of Watkins occurred mid-season, and set the Utes back even more.

A season of few ups but mostly downs hit phenomenal proportions when the Utes suffered a 40- point setback at the University of Colorado on New Year’s Eve. Then the worst loss in the program’s 104 years occurred in the regular season finale, when the Utes lost by 46 points at the University of Oregon.

The Utes’ best victory of the season was at home, against Stanford, which finished in the middle of the pack in the Pac 12. The first conference victory was a January 5 home win against Washington State, 62-60 in overtime. The Utes finished 3-15 in their inaugural season in the Pac 12.

Jason Washburn was the team’s pleasant surprise player of the year as he broke out with 11.4 points per game. The junior center led the team after the dismissal of Watkins, with 6.2 rebounds per game. Washburn was a big fill-in player after starting center David Foster’s injury sidelined him for the season.

Some close to the team say it’s hard to put a team together on the fly and expect to win as the Utes did, especially after so many players left the squad. Krystkowiak has to get a few years of his own recruits to determine the tenor of his success or failure.

The Utes finished their season with a loss in the Pac 12 Tournament to conference champion Colorado, which upset UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Utes heading into next season will look to schedule more home games at the beginning of the year. This past season the Utes had only six non-conference home games far less than most Pac 12 teams. With a young team, home games scheduled for early in the season can be a great confidence boost. Team managers expect to overhaul the roster as numerous new players come in and some older player will likely transfer out.

“This year was a bad year for our team but coming back next year we hope to get our team situated and turn this thing around,” said junior guard Cedric Martin.

Expect Martin, and Farr to return next year. Kareem Storey, and Chris Hines are among four players who have been granted their release of scholarship to transfer. Center David Foster, nursing his broken foot, is recovering and should be ready for next season team managers mentioned.

Foster was the 2009 Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year as he led to a school record in blocked shots. Coping wit his injury, he said, took its toll. “It was tough to see and watch the guys all year long, but I’m on the road to recovery and look to really help our team become better next season.”

Hines, who at times during the season was the most explosive player on the team, mentioned that the Utes might surprise every team in the conference next season despite the fact that he is transferring.

There might be two new suspected starters in the lineup next year with redshirt transfer guards Aaron Dotson from LSU and Glen Dean from Eastern Washington University. Both started at their previous schools and are expected to be significant upgrades from this year’s starters.

Contrary to what pessimists believe, Utes basketball (Voices of Utah) could be on the upswing. With fall just around the corner, the roster will be set soon and practice will begin. With a healthy Foster and some transfer players coming in, the team could kick into gear. Returning players will bring experience and wisdom and Krystkowiak has every reason to feel upbeat.

“We are looking forward to next season and get everybody together to prove how good this team really can be,” said redshirt transfer guard Aaron Dotson.

Mediation saves families money

by TYLER COBB

Going to court for a divorce can be stressful, both monetarily and emotionally. In Utah couples are required to sit down with a mediator to work through their problems in an attempt to avoid a court trial and a hefty legal bill.

The State of Utah began requiring mediation in 2005 to help people avoid going to court by talking with a neutral mediator, trained in how to handle family conflicts and how to navigate the law.

Stewart Ralphs, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, said hundreds of low-income families need legal advice and most lawyers do pro bono work to keep costs low. But it costs even less when couples can solve problems through a mediator.

“We’re trained in law school to be very zealous advocates for our clients and go to the mat and take these cases to trial and bring in all the evidence and win, win, win,” Ralphs said. “Mediation is just the opposite – it’s trying to come up with a resolution for everybody as a winner.”

Ralphs said the organization generally works with mediators from Utah Dispute Resolution, a nonprofit mediation organization where most mediators work as volunteers to keep costs low for struggling families.

If the parties can resolve their dispute using mediation it’s much cheaper than going to trial, and there is a fairly high rate of resolution. “It can vary between 60 to 75 percent of the time, which is certainly cheaper than going through the whole trial process,” Ralphs said.

Mediators spend hours negotiating with both parties to reach a fair conclusion, but they have to remain neutral despite what is said.

The courts require that mediators spend at least 40 hours in training, which they can receive at the dispute resolution center. Nancy McGahey, executive director of the center, said most mediators the center hires are well-trained and have certain skills and personality traits that help them work with couples.

“People in dispute need time. As a mediator you need to sit with people and be comfortable with people who are emotional,” McGahey said. “It’s also important to know oneself and be aware of your own internal biases, especially when you’re starting to lose neutrality.”

At the Legal Aid Society, attorneys rely “very heavily” on mediation to avoid court dispute, Ralphs said. Going to court can increase costs for all families. Ralphs said the organization charges anywhere from $200 to $600 for family-law cases, just for lawyer and court costs. However, there are other expenses depending on the results of the court and how long it drags out.

“You come up with an agreement that people are actually going to implement and make work,” Ralphs said. “These are people that have got to live the rest of their lives together. They have kids together. They have property together, and they can usually come up with a better solution than a judge can in a one- or two-day trial.”

Many women and/or men who come to the Legal Aid Society for a family-law case have multiple factors they need to consider and resolve, especially those seeking a divorce. The couple will have to review childcare, health care, child support, property resolution and other issues.

The Legal Aid Society sees so many family-law cases that they usually request mediators trained specifically for family law.

McGahey said family-law mediators need additional training beyond most mediators.

“They’re more experienced and have more training,” McGahey said. “To be approved on the court roster, a domestic mediator needs 20 hours of practical experience, an ethics exam, a criminal background check and in addition, the person needs a minimum of 32 hours domestic training and a formal mentorship, which involves six mediation sessions at a minimum.”

With a good mediator, a session can be successful and help couples find a solution.

Some women requesting legal help come from an abusive or closed relationship and sometimes need to say what they’re feeling, Ralphs said. A mediator can provide an atmosphere to work through problems without arguing or yelling.

If mediation or negotiation doesn’t work, attorneys will start preparing to take the case to court. “The custody battle follows,” Ralphs said.